Version Reviewed: 3.1
App Reviewed on: iPad 2
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Originally published by Games Workshop (and now under Fantasy Flight's aegis), the Talisman board game has gone through four editions and a number of expansions since its release back in 1983. A digital version appeared on Steam just a couple of months back and now we're finally being treated to the inevitable iOS port. But does this classic warhorse still stack up after almost thirty years on the market?
The objective of Talisman is to reach the Crown of Command at the center of the Valley of Fire and use its power to force the other players out of the game. Players pick their characters, each with unique powers and abilities, from a variety of typical fantasy archetypes. They then move through a series of regions on the board, having encounters along the way. Most encounters will be drawn from a deck that contains dangerous monsters, powerful treasures, and special events. Most encounter cards remain in play on the space they were drawn at, however some spaces the player lands on have their own special encounters that remain the same from game to game. There's not enough space here for a full rules breakdown, but suffice to say, it's pretty typical fantasy fare.
In fact, "pretty typical" could be said about a lot of the elements of Talisman. Much of this comes from the fact that the game is definitely starting to show its age. In comparison to more recent board games that contain a greater degree of mechanical elegance and nuance, the game systems here rely almost entirely on luck. It's very possible to get completely screwed by a string of poor dice rolls or card draws while another player snowballs their way toward near-untouchability. Those same fickle fates can still turn against them as well, but after reaching a certain tipping point of character progression most of the game's obstacles will present little threat to someone that far in the lead. The game can still stretch on for a fair bit of time despite this, which can feel even longer still due the flat, bells-and-whistles free presentation.
It's not to say that Talisman is bad at all; it's just very much a product of the early days of this type of complex, niche board game. We were willing to forgive a lot of weak design in the name of novelty, flavor, and having something to play with friends that was more geek-friendly than Monopoly, but without the level of commitment of a full Dungeons & Dragons campaign. The problem is, over the years we've had a lot of games of this variety come down the pike that handle that same experience in a better, more engaging fashion.
Still, at seven bucks Talisman is probably worth picking up, even if only to decide if one feels like dropping around sixty for the full version. And hey, with the right group of friends even flawed classics are still fun to play once in a while.